How Should CMO’s Evaluate Marketing Automation Vendors?


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CMO’s are on a crusade to increase marketing contribution to revenue. Lead Generation is the path and their Marketing Automation system is the engine. However, 75% of CMO’s are not accomplishing what they expect from Marketing Automation (Frost & Sullivan report).

The decision to stick with or replace their Marketing Automation System (MAS) is crucial. Making the right decision will impact marketing’s ability to drive revenue contribution.   My last post addressed the three most common reasons Marketing Automation implementations fail.   This post addresses how to select the right system for your business.

Download the Marketing Automation Vendor Scorecard to address insufficient lead generation.

Finding the Ideal Marketing Automation Vendor for You

The scorecard is for new adoption and also for evaluating an existing vendor. The requirements are organized in a comprehensive framework. Below is a list of the summary scores for each major category. The download includes a detailed set of requirements within each category.


If you have an existing vendor, then evaluate their performance against your business goals.   Based on the results you can determine if it makes sense to evaluate other vendors.

Take special note of the Scenario Review requirement. This is where you provide the top Use Cases you want to see demonstrated. Marketing Automation platforms are sexy and demo remarkably well. It’s not until you apply Use Cases that you can identify the real gaps. Don’t wait to find the gaps as a user.

Download the scorecard and customize the business requirements to your business.   Tweak the weighting to tailor the requirements to your needs.

Which Marketing Automation System is the best fit?

Each vendor has advantages and disadvantages. We have experienced tremendous success with each of these vendors across multiple clients. The top MAS vendors for Enterprise to Mid-size businesses include; Marketo, Eloqua,’s Pardot, Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot, and Silverpop.

There are cases where Teradata’s Aprimo or IBM’s system are ideal and finish at the top of the stack. Other times we have found Salesforce’s Pardot finish at the top. Marketo and Eloqua in general are always in the running.

Each Marketing Automation system is constructed with a different core vision. Where each began gives you an insight into their strongest capabilities;

  • Eloqua led the way and is the most common among enterprise level marketing.
  • Marketo fast followed Eloqua and has much of the functionality but with more modern UI.
  • Pardot & Silverpop started as email systems and later evolved into full Marketing Automation platforms. Both have outstanding email capabilities that will successfully serve email heavy organizations. Both are adding functionality to compete with Eloqua and Marketo.  
  • HubSpot started as an inbound marketing engine. CMO’s embarking on inbound marketing must spend time with HubSpot. Ignore the legacy thinking that HubSpot is only a SMB platform.  
  • Infusionsoft was built to focus on SMB and is the ideal marketing automation system for small business.

Why Support Trumps Technology

Experience over time has shown that quality support is crucial factor. In the past four years we have seen vendors fluctuate in their level support. This is impacted by the stress of high growth as platforms catch fire. Below is an all too common portrayal of support:

  • Company A has a significant paid support contract with a top 3 vendor. The point of contact at the vendor has changed 6x in 15 months. The perfect technology fit for Company A, but a poor solution overall. Company A chose a top marketing automation vendor but a poor fit for them.
  • Company B experiences outstanding support from a middle of the pack vendor. The vendor met their key business requirements. Company B chose what experts would term an ‘average’ marketing automation system. The results however are a perfect fit for Company B.

Implementation and support must be a heavily weighted part of your evaluation.

How 3rd Party Reports Can Lead You Astray

I admire Gartner. The Magic Quadrant report on Marketing Automation technology is a valuable resource. The report is valuable in the following ways;

  • Identifies the top vendors to evaluate, and who to ignore
  • Gather answers from evaluation criteria that fit your business needs
  • Gain understanding of strategic vision of where platforms are going

The danger is that the Magic Quadrant report is a generalization. Your business needs are unique. My company has performed dozens of customized assessments. It’s rare to see the stack ranking reflect the exact same results shown in the Gartner report. In most cases the best fit vendors do not mirror what’s shown the report.   This is expected as the business needs for marketing automation can vary significantly.

Gartner Magic Quadrant, Marketing Automation 2013


CMO’s should leverage 3rd party research to inform their evaluation against custom requirements.

Approach to an Existing Vendor with Escalating Costs

Over time you will customize your Marketing Automation system. This increases your switching cost. Unfortunately some vendors take advantage of this in their renewal of contract pricing.

Some vendors are great partners, but not all. Reward a great partner. Do not put them through a formal evaluation at the time of renewal. But if the vendor is escalating costs without added value then you must act. Sometimes you need to beat them on the head. You simply want them to treat you as well as they did when you were a prospect. A formal evaluation at the time of renewal does wonders for your contract negotiation. Most importantly you can lock in the level of support required for success in 2015.

Don’t be handcuffed by your past customization. New vendors can be creative in offering services to address the switching cost.

The CMO’s Crusade to Revenue Contribution

Confirm that you have the technology engine to drive revenue contribution. Download the Marketing Automation Vendor Scorecard to address insufficient lead generation. This tool provides an objective view to make a sound business decision.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Vince Koehler
Vince is a demand generation thought leader with more than 16 years of industry and professional services experience. He has been chartered with "filling the funnel" for organizations to keep sales resources productive in driving systematic growth. A sample list of Vince's engagements include: Colgate, CITGO Petroleum, GE, Yellow Freight, and Roadway Express.


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